Ryder Cup Memories: 2004 Oakland Hills CC
The fire begins to flicker
By Jim Ward President of Premier Golf
I have to admit, other than 2001, the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills CC in suburban Detroit was my least favorite. We had just come off the largest point deficit (15.5–12.5) at the Belfry in 2002. I don’t know what it was, but the American chemistry wasn’t good in 2004. The players acted like they wanted to be somewhere else. We heard they had been instructed to be “all business” during the practice rounds and avoid lots of interaction with the public and media. By contrast, the smiling European players were friendly and convivial and absolutely won over the American crowds. I remember them putting children on their shoulders, posing for pictures and signing endless autographs.
It didn’t help American morale when Captain Hal Sutton paired Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods first off in the Friday pairings. I remember the two of them coming down the first fairway looking uneasy like they were on the way to a funeral not a golf match. Talk about oil and water. This can’t be good, I thought. Unfortunately, I was right. Europe crushed us and won that Ryder Cup by its largest margin in history 18.5-9.5.
Let’s party anyway
One of my favorite memories of that Ryder Cup was Saturday night. We rented out a special area in beautiful Comerica Park, the stunning, open-air ballpark in downtown Detroit where the Detroit Tigers play baseball. We had hundreds of people in the “Tiger Den” which overlooks the field. The evening festivities included tours of the clubhouse and dugout, a whiskey tasting, three different bands, Irish dancers and much more. It was great fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities and it helped us forget momentarily about the U.S. team’s poor performance.